By Mihajla Milovanovic and Neha Malhi
VENTURA, CA – James Lewis Apodaca’s trial for felony “kidnapping to commit another crime” reached Day 8 Friday here in Ventura County Superior Court with deputies describing the chase of the alleged abductor in a vehicle with the victim in an open trunk.
Deputy District Attorney Rafael Orellana began direct examination of apartment resident “Buzz” (not his real name), who said on August 21, 2021, he heard a vehicle coming down the road and a young female yelling for help.
Buzz claimed that although he saw the vehicle and that he attempted to see more detail, there was not enough light. He stated the victim screamed, “Please somebody help me!”
As the screaming continued Buzz said there was another resident sitting in a black convertible vehicle next to him and that an additional resident was at the entrance of the complex as well, relative to the vehicle and screaming that was occurring before the vehicle drove away.
The witness then explained that he went to his wife immediately, who is in law enforcement, and then proceeded to call 911.
The next witness, Deputy Sheriff Julian Fergerson, explained in depth that he had originally taken a left turn and saw a white Honda with the trunk open and bouncing as the car was driving. He mentioned that he saw people pointing to the car and heard a woman’s voice coming from the trunk.
The deputy then explained he activated his overhead lights west bound on Santa Ana, and the accused allegedly turned left on Olive Street and stopped. At that point the officer saw the victim run out of the car, crying, and get in the driver seat of the patrol car.
He stated that Apodaca allegedly stepped his foot out of the car and looked at Fergerson. The body cam footage on Fergerson is then played. Once finished, Fergerson explained that Apodaca began to run toward the private property and the deputy did not know if he was armed.
Deputy Fergerson stated Apodaca was not complying, yelling, “Kill me!” and that the deputy then began to draw his Taser but it was unsuccessful. Apodaca then jumped the fence and was armed with a pipe from the house at that point.
Deputy Fergerson then detailed his use of mace on private property in an attempt to stop Apodaca.
Deputy Public Defender George Martin Zaehringer asked the deputy when he first saw the woman running toward his car and the details of when he saw Apodaca pick up the pole. Fergerson stated Apodaca did not strike him with the pole until he was on the other side of the fence, preventing him from placing Apodaca in handcuffs.
DDA Orellana said it was impossible for Fergerson to apprehend Apodaca without risk of injury.
The afternoon hearing started with the testimony of another peace officer who helped deputies in their investigation, who said she found wires for a Taser and a plastic bag containing some white substance powder.
According to the statements there were eight deputies involved in the search, however the exact number of officers is not yet confirmed by any parties.
Deputies testified they found a cell phone, a white baggy in the door handle and a bag full of female clothes in the back of the car seat. In his statement and investigation, that bag of clothes belonged to the victim and the bag was opened with the clothes scattered around in the back seats.
Related to the white baggy found in the door handle, the defense asked deputies if they took precaution while handling evidence and if there is a chance of contamination.
One deputy said he followed all the necessary procedures set by the department, but, to take better pictures of the car interior, he had to rearrange some other items.